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Jakarta Post

Victims demand promised housing

  • Hotli Simanjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Banda Aceh   /   Thu, December 26, 2013   /  10:25 am

For almost the last eight years, Mairia, 33, has been living with her four children in a 3-by-4 meter room since the Indian Ocean tsunami swept her house away on Dec. 26, 2004.

There was only a dirty mattress and kitchenware scattered on the floor.

'€œThis is where we'€™ve lived since 2005. It hasn'€™t changed much since we first started living in this shelter,'€ Mairia said.

Mairia'€™s family is one 28 families living in evacuation shelters provided for the 2004 tsunami victims in the Ulee Lheue Beach area in Banda Aceh.

Two elevated-style shelters were erected in the area to accommodate dozens of tsunami victims.

Years after the catastrophic disaster, the supposed-to-be temporary shelters, which have been partly damaged, are still used by the victims.

'€œWe have no choice but to stay here because we have yet to receive new housing from the government,'€ Mairia, whose husband died around four months ago, went on.

Mairia said the government had promised her a new house, but had yet to see the promise fulfilled.

Coordinator of the Ulee Lheue shelters, Andi, confirmed the situation. The evacuees are Ulee Lheue fishermen whose land was swept away by the tsunami.

Andi said that the local administration and several NGOs had aimed to build new housing for the unfortunate residents, but there was no land to build on.

'€œIf we had land, the problem would'€™ve have been resolved years ago,'€ Andi said.

He said the administration had planned to relocate the residents to other regions, but they rejected the idea as the proposed area of relocation was far from the sea, while the villagers relied on fishing as their only source of income.

'€œThe administration later decided to relocate us to a region near the beach, but when it was time for us to move [to the new housing], the houses had already been taken by other people. So we chose to go back to the shelters,'€ Andi went on.

The 2004 tsunami swept up to 6 kilometers inland over the shorelines of Aceh and surrounding islands. The disaster claimed the lives of more than 126,000 people in Aceh.

Some 500,000 survivors lost their homes, while as many as 750,000 people lost their livelihoods.

In all, the tsunami resulted in the deaths of about 230,000 people in 13 Indian Ocean countries, including Thailand, Sri Lanka and India.

Following the devastating tsunami, and the Nias earthquake in March 2005, the government established the Agency for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Aceh and Nias (BRR NAD-Nias) in April 2005, which was in charge of coordinating and implementing recovery programs.

The BRR service in Aceh and Nias came to an end in 2009.

According to data from the BRR, during its four-year mandate, the agency managed to build 140,000 houses, 3,600 kilometers of roads, 12 airports or airstrips, 20 seaports, around 1,500 schools '€” including training units for 39,000 teachers '€” more than 1,100 healthcare centers and 987 government buildings.

Many tsunami victims, however, accused the agency of failing to disburse funds promised to them so they could rebuild homes destroyed by the 2004 tsunami.

The victims said they had been waiting for years but had yet to receive any money.

Meanwhile, commenting on the Ulee Lheue issue, Banda Aceh Deputy Mayor Illiza Saaduddin Djamal said the city administration had tried to find a solution for the 28 remaining evacuees to get proper housing.

'€œWe are trying to provide housing for them, but they are required to have land. Because the Banda Aceh administration has no land-provision program [for residents],'€ said Illiza.

'€œIf they don'€™t have land, they can actually rent low-cost apartments provided by the administration so they can live a decent life,'€ Illiza added.

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